24th October – Train Wreck Hike

Last week, I delayed myself to a point that I did absolutely nothing with my time off, and the one day I tried, ended up bucketing down with rain.  This week I was determined to change that – there’s no guarantee the weather will stay nice considering the snowfall we had earlier, so I need to get through the last of the hikes while I have the chance.  This morning, I’m out of the house by 9, in Cheakamus Crossing by 9:30, and begin the Train Wreck Hike.

This is one of the newest hikes in Whistler, and it has some history.  The train wreck has been a must-see attraction in Whistler almost since the crash, but up until last year, getting to it was ‘technically’ illegal, because you could only get to it by crossing the train tracks since it was blocked in by a river, and the railway.  When it became clear that stopping people from visiting, the council figured out a solution – create an easy hike from Cheakamus Crossing, with a brand new suspension bridge over Cheakamus River, which makes it possible to visit without breaking the law.

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The wreck consists of several rail cars that crashed over forty years ago when a train sped through an area undergoing repairs.  For some it poses a mystery, given that the cars are over 150 yards away from the railway line, yet didn’t damage a single one of the trees around them.  In reality – the train crashed and blocked the railway line, and loggers were brought in with their equipment, who dragged the cars into the forest to leave them to the elements.  There was a joke when they first crashed that they were a cheap option for staying in Whistler, but now they’re mostly known for the graffiti art covering them head to toe.  There’s also a bike park, with railings and landings for more experienced bikers (although when I visited, most of it looked decrepit).

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I’m here so early, that I have the entire area to myself, and it’s immediately obvious why so many people were drawn here.  The contrast between the cars and the forest is urban fantasy at its best.  You can still see the dents and buckling from the crash behind the paint, but the outsides are still in great condition – some of them you can climb up the ladders and clamber onto the roofs…then you step inside the car and see the rotting wooden boards.  When I summoned the courage to go in, I swear I was hearing voices and had to bolt out.  Most likely it was just the wood creaking, but still had me shivering.

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Most of the cars are collected in the same area near the river, but if you head South, you’ll find two in really bad condition – probably the main casualties in the crash, hoarding together not too far from the river rapids.  I can hear them long before I see them, and getting there requires some risky navigation (learning the hard way the boots I bought for winter are not great for hiking in the wet), but it must be a popular place to visit, cause there’s even a bench here.  Sadly, you can’t really see the rapids properly, due to the location of the rocks – this combined with my height issues and my non-confidence in my shoes mean I don’t want to get too close to the edge.  There are no safety barriers here.

It hasn’t taken nearly as long to get here as I expected, and I know there are more walks and hikes around here – and I can sort of see one winding through the forest against the river, so decide to check it out.  What I get is a quiet and calm hour just wandering around the forest, while the weather decides to become even better than I expected.  Even my jacket ends up in my bag as I start sweating.

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However, I do find myself having to walk over the train tracks to keep walking, and suddenly make it to the highway.  Not my plan at all.  However, there’s a different trail that will head back towards the train wreck, called ‘runaway train’ – so I head along that.  It’s a lot more gruelling than my wandering so far, because most of what I was walking on felt more like a country road, while this is less a path and more ‘where a bunch of other people have walked through recently.’  It still takes a good hour and a half to make my way back though, especially since a lot of this route is uphill for me.  So, when I make it back to the train cars, there’s a lot more people wandering around, and I figure I have two choices.  Head back to Cheakamus and explore the area…or head along the ‘old’ route to the rail cars and go visit Function Junction since I’m near the area.  Decide trekking the old route is my best option…mainly because I’d been told it wasn’t that far.

This was clearly blatant lies.  I was figuring it was a half hour walk – but twenty minutes later it’s clear I’m not even halfway there.  However, I have stumbled across Cheakamus Falls, which are stunning.

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My biggest frustration is I CAN’T get closer, because my shoes just cannot get grip and I’m not trusting them on the ledges.  It’s a quiet beauty compared to the brashness of the cars.

As I keep going further along, the path becomes awkward to track – I’m dependent on blue ribbon hanging from trees to keep me on track, right up until I find the river cutting my trek off.  I have to emerge from the forest and walk along the train track in order to get to the other side.  Along the way I run into some girls who are walking along the track rather than the forest, and give me some directions.  Thankfully I spot some blue tags in the forest and descend once again.  About 20 minutes later (and some stunningly beautiful river spots), the path intentionally moves towards the railway line, even with arrows spray painted on rocks.  When I get out, there’s even spray paint on the tracks – clearly previous hikers have made sure people know how to get where they go – and head across.

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Ten minutes later sees me wandering under the highway bridge, and a much easier walk.  Soon enough, I’m finally spotting Function Junction, and hit up the Re-Use-It Centre before I head home.  Was planning to find something for Halloween…but instead I find a slow cooker.  I’ve been after one of these for weeks, so it’s in my basket even as I leave the costume rack empty handed.  Also grab another pot since we could really use one, and medium sized pots with lids are gold dust in Whistler.

Tomorrow I’m back to work, but at least I’ve done something with my time off today.

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18th October – Winter is Coming

Recently we’ve been getting warnings that there’s a giant snowstorm stretching from China all the way to Canada, and snow might be showing up a lot sooner than expected.  Certainly, doesn’t look it today, it’s so warm (if admittedly wet) I forgo my winter boots and socks for lighter ones, so I don’t overheat.

Today I’m working with a whopping 3 other guys, although we’ll only be working together in the morning before I head off to finish detailing the cabin (which I’d started the week before) and they go deep clean some of the larger buildings.  However, while we’re in the middle of doing a bin check all the way in Creekside, it starts to snow.  And it doesn’t stop.

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When I get to the Cabin, there’s nearly an inch on the ground.  Two hours later, it’s closer to three, and we have to go finish up another area at the Daylodge – which means my feet are freezing.  Thankfully the guys let me go back to my flat and change my shoes before we move to our next area – I’m now detailing the Financial Building, a building I honestly didn’t even know existed until now, crazy considering it’s almost right next door to staff accommodation.

Although I do a lot of dusting (and I mean a lot – apparently this department lost a lot of people during the Vail buyout and most of the desks haven’t been touched in months), my eyes are mostly focuses on cleaning windows and blinds, because it means I can keep an eye on the snow.  It hasn’t stopped since ten this morning, and it’s causing chaos all over the place.  Even when we were driving up the hill, the problems were all over – buses were completely stuck, and all the trees – still covered in leaves – were leaning over the roads since they couldn’t stand up with the sheer weight of the snow.  Two cars have already been damaged at Westside accommodation thanks to falling branches.

Thankfully, at just after 3, it finally stops…and turns to rain.  When the guys pick me up at 5, it looks like the worst is over.  I’m just hoping it stays gone and thaws out so I can get the weather to go hiking on my days off.

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2nd October – Spruce it Up!

One of our roommates has left for good, and she’s taken the good weather with her.  The temperature is dropping very quickly, and we’re starting to feel it in the apartment.  It’s also getting darker at nights, and the light in our flat is utterly hopeless.  So, in order to fix this, I decide to order some things to brighten the place up.  Online, I grab some couch covers and a rug, and in town, I decide I need a new table for my tv (and a place to put my roommate’s portable oven), and a floor lamp so we can finally get some light in the main part of our living room (our light barely covers 20% of the main room).

The best option is the Re-Build-It Centre which is the furniture equivalent of the Re-Use-It Centre, but I need a ride.  Thankfully, when I mentioned this at work, a co-worker was happy to help me out, offering his car for today.

What I’m really looking for is a kind of tv unit and a tall lamp.  The tall lamp is easier than the first, here are plenty.  The biggest issue is finding one that’s cheap – I end up grabbing one that requires a very specific bulb, which means I can’t test it.  Ends up not working and having to pay a friend with a car to take it back for an exchange, grabbing a normal bulb lamp instead.  Instead of a tv unit, I grab a table with multiple shelves underneath.  Not exactly what I was looking for, but it’s only $20 and I think I’ll be able to work around it.

Now I just need my online stuff to arrive before our new roommates do so I can turn this place into a nice flat rather than just bland accommodation.

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1st October – Dish Pit

The last day of the season will be the 9th October, but the Rendezvous is only open on Saturday and Sunday until then.  On the Saturday, we were packed with end of season visitors, so the grill has been going crazy.  We thought we had enough stock to last, but by the end of the day we were having to ration lettuce, tomato and peppers because we just don’t have enough.

I’m on call for Sunday, but on Saturday, I’m asked if I would be willing to work in the dish pit rather than the front line.  Our current dishie is desperate for a day off, and the relief dishie has been doing a lot of shifts at his other job, so doesn’t want to give up his front-line shift if he doesn’t have to.  I’ve never worked in the dish pit, but I’m happy to give it a shot if it gets me another day’s work.  The relief dishie will be fixing everything up and breaking down since that requires training, but other than that it’s on me.

In the morning I did the grill prep, and when we opened I started with the cleaning.  The basic jobs of the dish pit are separating the rubbish into compost, recycling and garbage, then rinsing off the plates before shoving them through the giant dishwasher – at which point one of the bussers takes the stuff off to dry in its right section.

In the mornings it’s very quiet since we don’t have a lot of people needing lunch, but by 1pm it starts picking up, and both I and the busser are working at full power for the rest of the afternoon.  There’s always 3 crates of plates to deal with no matter how fast we work.  I barely even realise the restaurant has closed until we get some additional bussers in to help us close.

All things considered, I definitely prefer being in the ‘front’ house back line, but think I could easily do a dish pit job on the side if I had to.

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26th September 2017 – Bike Park

Next week the bike park closes, and I’m desperate to get out at least one more time.  I haven’t managed to get on a bike anywhere near as much as I wanted to, so the second I saw decent weather, I was bolting down the hill to rent a bike.

It’s clear I haven’t been biking enough, because I drive the lift operators up the wall every time I head up the mountain.  I just cannot get the bike onto the hook or the stand no matter what I do.  The trouble continues when I get to Easy-Does-It and realise I’ve gotten the brakes hooked to the wrong wheel.  Thankfully, once I get down the mountain, I can get to the shop and get them swapped round.

I’ve never ridden anything other than the simplest trail, but since then, the rains have started to arrive, and the trail is almost a completely different beast.  There’s no longer huge lengths of dust and slippy surfaces, all the loose surface has wash away, and the biggest challenge is the rocks that have emerged in their place.  It almost feels like a completely different trail.

However, I’m really confident after 3 trails, although my hand is starting to cramp.  I decide that I’ll do one last run, but since the rain has destroyed most of the dust, I want to give the easy trail that panicked me the second time I came out another shot.

Best decision I made all day.  The trail was nerve wracking, but without the dust I had so much more grip, and managed to speed through the segment with no issues.  I really want to go out again, but my hand is in agony – lesson learned, no matter how much fun you’re having, take a break midway through the trail to stretch your hand, or you’re going to regret it.  When I hand my bike in, I still have an hour, and I know my hand is going in a restraint tomorrow thanks to my stupidity.

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21st September – Day Crew Cleaning

Since the Rendezvous is now only doing weekend shifts and will be closing come October, I needed to find another source of income.  Originally, I planned to go travelling, but financially that just wasn’t happening – so I put my feelers out and got a job as part of the Day Crew in the cleaning division.  For the first few weeks this means doing 1-2 regular day shifts where I do general cleaning for the G1 and Daylodge areas of Whistler (the bike park and upper village respectively).  When the Rendezvous closes for good and the village shuts down for the dead season, I’ll be doing more deep cleaning and detailing instead.  But for now, I’m cleaning toilets and sweeping the outside areas free from trash and cigarette butts.

Of course, it doesn’t exactly start smoothly.  My boss runs a lot of different Whistler divisions, and the cleaning division is ALWAYS short staffed.  There’s not a lot of benefits for being on the day crew and most of the other jobs in the village pay more than Whistler Blackcomb.  With so many people going on holiday, it’s even worse right now.  Today, I’m supposed to be cleaning with a regular cleaner, but they haven’t shown up for several shifts, so most of my morning is spent in her office while she tries to fix that problem.

When we do get out, we manage to check out the Carleton bathrooms, clean up the square, and do the same at the Daylodge before she takes me up the mountain to check out the toilets at mid-station (normally the responsibility of the Roundhouse, but they’re not working the weekdays anymore and it’s in bad shape).  The girl’s is fine, but the boy’s toilet is BADLY clogged, so we need to really use some elbow grease to fix it up.  After this, I’m left to my own devices, basically checking the toilets, the grounds, the upper village, and then repeating the tasks again and again until 5:30.

The one really good benefit of this job though is until the dead season starts, I get one free meal from either Garbo’s or Girabaldi’s, so that’s awesome.  Garbos have great burgers, and most meals in GLC cost close to $20, so that’s nearly 2 additional hours of cash.

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19th September – Paintball

With last week being the last full week of service, it’s time for the very last staff party of the season.  To be honest the Rendezvous hasn’t had nearly as many as the Roundhouse has, so I’m really looking forward to this one.  We’re all going to paintball!

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At around 2pm, everyone’s picked up by bus outside the admin building at Blackcomb, and we head about ten minutes out of town to the paintball area.  They have one area in the forest, and a bunch of games.  Rendezvous is paying for about 2000 bullets, so we’ll keep playing till we run out of them (or choose to buy more on our own dime).  We split into two teams, using coloured tokens to keep it even (yellow and orange – I’m on orange), and start with the first game, Capture the Flag.  Basic rules – one shot that hits and you’re out.  If it doesn’t break, you’re still in.

The orange team is in the right-side base, and unfortunately, we have a lot of people in our team who are REALLY scared about getting hit, and huddle inside the base in fear.  So, we have quite a few people climbing the hill beside us to work as cover, while others try to make their way over, and about half the team huddle in the base.  Needless to say, we lose as we all get picked off one by one, and the people in the base get slaughtered when the yellow team descend upon them.  I get picked out about midway with a shot to the arm.

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Thankfully by the next game everyone’s gotten over their fear, which is ironic because staying in the base is actually a good option now.  It’s Plant the Bomb – the yellow team has to get a bomb into our base.  If we can get to the bomb, we can ‘disarm’ it and win.  Since we’re on the defensive, we don’t have to move out as much, so we’re all over the place to protect the area.  I’m in the main base, and poked my gun out of a hole in the wooden barrier, and just fired whenever I spotted a head.  Despite a valiant effort by the yellow team, we take out the bomb holder and manage to crawl close enough to the bomb to ‘disarm’ it.

In the second round, we were the bomb holders, and our leaders came up with a strategy to carry a rock as a decoy, while the real bomb went really low.  I and a few others headed up the hill, and I decided to go right to the very top, ending up getting straight into enemy territory and using the height to try and take out people in the base.  This both did and didn’t work – I could see them and distract them, but I was too high for my bullets to hit and take anyone it.  It was a bit of a catch 22 situation.  Didn’t matter though, because despite being unable to take anyone out, our strategy worked, and we got the bomb into their base.

In the next game, there were a collection of levers all over the area, with yellow and orange tags on the end.  We have to swing them to our colour, in fifteen minutes, whoever has the most tags wins.  Each team has four levels deep in their base, and there is four in the middle ground.

This is a lot harder since staying in the base isn’t an option.  Although in the first five minutes we’re allowed to return after getting shot so long as we go back to our base – this means a lot of people take risks trying to get to the levers.  I try my luck at getting the one closest to our base on the hill, but get hit the first time in the leg.  Second time I succeed in getting one on the south side switched, but within 2 minutes the yellow team have switched it back.  In the last few minutes I go up north again, but yet another bullet takes me out of the running (quite literally, hits me in the stomach and has me doubled over as I limp back to the safehouse), and yellow takes the game again.

At this point some people want to come out and get ready for the barbeque after the game.  Since we’re starting to run low on bullets by this point, this increases our ammo, and the teams get swapped around.  Now it’s the front-line vs the back line.  Due to the number of players, I get swapped into the front line, which keeps me on the orange team.  This time is an orange vs yellow free for all.  No strategy, no needing to move around, just a full battle royale.  I decide to take the chance and head back up the hill since it worked so well last time for hiding, but couldn’t get enough shelter to make my way down, and found myself stuck far too high up.  On top of which, Eli from the other team spotted me, and started making his way up.  I couldn’t hit him in time, and decided to retreat, turning back to the orange base before Eli could make his way up.

I ended up back at the orange base trying to spot people, only to run out of bullets, and decide I’d now use my uselessness to support other orange players.  Whenever they wanted to move, I’d provide ‘cover’ by shooting at other players, who had no idea I was out of bullets.  Eventually though, my luck ran out, and I got hit by, wouldn’t-you-know-it, Eli again.  He’d come down the hill and started tracking players at the base.  As I stood up in surrender though, he didn’t realise and managed to hit me again, this time square on my breast, making the one on my stomach the second most painful injury I’d had today.

The final matchup was between two yellow and one orange, and although they put up a valiant effort, a yellow player took the win, and we all trudged out for the barbeque, having had quite the enjoyable afternoon shooting our co-workers.  We stuck around for about 2 hours eating hotdogs with relish clearly taken from the Rendezvous (all the salsa etc from Mexican that was going to go out of date), and then trailed back into the village.  A few hours later, everyone was at Crystal Lodge for another WB staple.  Karaoke.

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I know a few people who’ve gone to this, but I’ve never been myself.  However tonight was a hoot – Rendezvous basically took over the front of the bar, with our managers singing most of the songs.  I went up twice, despite being virtually tone deaf, singing ‘Going Out Like That’ by Reba McIntyre, and ‘Allstar’ – accompanied by one of my bosses who wanted to join in (we ended up messing with each other most of the song), before heading back home.  Definitely need to come more to this once winter starts up.

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